Sonoma – Part One

When we originally planned this vacation, our goal was to head directly up to Sonoma after the wedding, we LOVE Sonoma. Then the fires began and our plans changed.  The couple we were traveling with were very nervous about the fires and the residual side effects of  whatever toxic stuff had burned but my hubby and I would have stuck to our original plan if we were solo.   So on Tuesday when our friends were flying out to head home, we booked a car, an Airbnb and were off to Sonoma!  Our first stop was one of our favorites, Ravenswood Winery.  Last time I was in Sonoma I was pregnant with our first son, so while I was the ultimate Designated Driver, it was torture smelling all the wines but not having any! It was payback time.  I distinctly remember how delicious the IMG_3570Ravenswood wines smelled from my previous trip so I was really excited to head back.  Since all of the vineyards were just getting back on their feet after a two week hiatus we were the only customers so our amazing wine connoisseur, Nancy, gave us the best tasting we’ve ever had there.  It was a beautiful day and sitting on their terrace was pure bliss. Although we could clearly see the fire line in the hills. It was a distinct line in the hills and not very far away from where we were sitting.  We leisurely drank our wine as Nancy came back and forth with our tastings.  She sat and chatted with us.  She told us how everyone in the area with a tractor had gone out and dug up earth in helping with the fire.  It created a barrier for the fire to cross and helped stop it from spreading.  Nancy told us how the community truly came together to help each other it was inspiring.  After a couple of hours with Nancy she gave us a list of recommendations of other vineyards to visit and we were off on our way.

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On Nancy’s recommendation we headed into Sonoma Plaza to another tasting room at Corner 103.  It was our first time there and the location is prime on the corner in Sonoma’s “downtown” area with great views of Sonoma Plaza.  Brent was our host there and from speaking to him I thought he was the owner but not in an arrogant way.  He just cared about the venue and the wine as if it were his own and how the fires had affected the area.  The interior is sleek and new but had a faint smoke smell despite of the fact that it had been professionally cleaned.  I told Brent the story of when my house burned down when I was 16 and how the smell was reminding me of that and how certain items that made it through still carry that same smell.  We chatted with another patron in the tasting room who happened to be an employee at Buena Vista winery which was next on our list but first I needed to sober up a bit.  So we did a little shopping.

We went a couple of doors down and I tried on a dress but it wasn’t really my style and the sales woman recommended we try a boutique a couple of doors down named Bella Vita.  So as we headed that way everywhere we looked there were signs made for the emergency personnel who had helped saved Sonoma.  There wasn’t a store without a IMG_3871sign.  It was inspiring.  I could see what Nancy was talking about.  We made it to Bella Vita and within a  couple of minutes in the store my husband had picked out the perfect dress.  It even had pockets!  We moseyed over to Sonoma Cheese Factory for some charcuterie and then stopped in Global Heart Fair trade for a Christmas ornament.  I like to collect Christmas Ornaments on vacation. It makes decorating the tree more fun and personal!  We got back to the car and headed to Buena Vista winery.

I had been following Buena Vista on Facebook and knew it was their first day reopening.  The fires had made it to the back of their buildings and being the oldest winery in Sonoma the fire department did everything they could to save it and they did.

Although the buildings were saved, they were still working on getting the smell and smoke out of the buildings.  So all tastings were happening on the patio which was fine with us because it was a beautiful day! We sat outside making small talk with other patrons but since it was already past their closing time we didn’t spend much time there.  We figured it was time to see where we were spending the night and find some dinner.

We found our AirbnIMG_3860b and quickly made ourselves at home. The apartment also reeked of smoke so we opened all the windows and turned on the fans and made ourselves a charcuterie plate to enjoy outside as the sun set.  For dinner, we opted for a local Mexican place called El Molino Central it was delicious and super affordable – too of my favorite things.   We called it a night early excited for the following full day of tastings and exploring.  One more fully packed day to come!

California Knows How to Party…

For my husband and I, an invitation to a wedding is a great excuse to travel and when we received one for a wedding in California there was no saying no! Especially in San Francisco and if you’re going to go to California ya might as well make it a vacation.

When I booked the flight I did something I normally would never do, I booked a flight that arrived 3 hours and 15 minutes before the wedding. So any significant flying delays and we would probably miss the wedding. It created a bit of anxiety but since it saved us one hotel room night in San Francisco it made sense. Luckily our flight left on time and we were flying along as a scheduled until we were disrupted from watching a movie by a woman screaming “Is there a doctor on board!!!!”   There was some commotion and luckily there was a doctor on the plane. Up to this point on the flight, I had gathered that the woman next to me was a HOT mess. She was friendly and talkative but she had already gotten in trouble with the flight attendant for bringing her own spiced rum bottles on the plane. PSA: it’s a violation of FAA rules to drink your own alcohol on the plane. So when the commotion began, this woman was very interested in seeing what was going on. She was leaning so far into the aisle that when the flight attendant was going back and forth with a medical kit and oxygen tanks, she was completely blocking the flight attendant. I literally grabbed her and pulled her back into our aisle I said “you gotta get out of the way!” At this point we had no idea what was going on with the passenger who needed medical attention. And this hot mess of a woman had no self awareness to make sure she didn’t add to the problem. It was baffling. Luckily the man was fine and by the end of flight he walked himself off the plane and was being checked out by paramedics.  He had apparently fainted and was much better by the time we landed and we made it to the wedding on time! The wedding was absolutely gorgeous! We had about an hour and a half to get ready and head down to the wedding.

The wedding was for one of my husbands college roommates who had moved to San Francisco after college. So we only knew one other couple at the wedding so we quickly made friends with everyone at our table. Table nineteen represent!!! It was a great night and everyone was super friendly and somehow we partied like rockstars till 2am PST!!! We paid for it dearly the next day.

The following day we had planned to meet up with friends from San Diego and hike Muir Woods. Which happens to be on my 40 before 40 list – woot woot! I woke up feeling okay but was definitely hungover from the festivities. So we went to the morning after breakfast- which was delicious!! Our friends from San Diego we’re going to be a bit so we walked around fisherman wharf and met them at a restaurant to eat lunch before our hike. I still wasn’t feeling great but knew I could pull it together. We finished up lunch and headed out. So the thing about me is that I get horribly car sick. Being hungover and sitting in the back of car on the very winding roads. I almost lost my lunch. It was awful. IMG_3522It took about ten minutes into the hike for me to finally feel like I wasn’t going to lose it. But there is nothing like a good nature walk to cure your motion sickness and hangover. It was a gorgeous day and the woods were exquisite:

 

After we headed back to San Francisco cleaned up and then headed to one of the best Thai places I have ever been to. (Excluding when I travels to Thailand but it was close!) We took a walk and headed back to the hotel for some much needed zzzzz’s.

We spent the next day in San Francisco. I dragged my hubby out for a run to the Golden Gate Bridge it was glorious! The skies were clear and the temperature was perfect. We ubered back to the hotel to get ready and meet our friends for an awesome breakfast.

We then did something I thought I would never do and we tried out Escape the Room.  It was a lot more fun than I expected and of course the women were better than the men. We walked all around San Francisco, watched the Eagles win and had  a low key night of dinner and drinks and then made plans to head to Sonoma the following day… to be continued..

France

France was once again good to us.  We didn’t meet a rude person in France until we were on the plane leaving but more on that later.  We arrived early on Sunday and I was exhausted.  I slept two hours during our overnight flight.  Protip # 1 Overnight flights are great with kids except if you have a lap infant.  Don’t expect to get any sleep with a small child on you.  Also on British airways they require parents to wear a special seat belt that attaches to your seat belt and around the baby.  They also check said seat belt anytime the seat belt sign is on.  Which happened a lot on our flight.  Lady – Don’t wake me up to check if my seat belt is on.  If am in my seat – it’s on and so is the baby’s-  please let me sleep.  Either way we made it, got our rental car and headed to our awesome Airbnb.  Our little house was perfect except it didn’t have WIFI.  Initially I was disappointed but then it felt great to disconnect especially when it came to politics!

Our first day was spent doing what we went there to do –  CLIMBING!  We spent the day on the rock and it was a beautiful day.  We were still tired and a bit out of it but we survived and climbed some fantastic boulders

My Aunt from Florida arrived on the second day so we spent the morning and afternoon climbing but then headed to the airport to pick her up.  Protip# 2 Don’t assume you’ll have service when traveling check that shit before you go.  We assumed my Aunt would have service in France because she texted us when she connected in Spain but she didn’t so we wasted an hour and a half waiting for her.  In addition, I got us lost on the way home and we ended up in Paris so instead of fighting the rush hour we went and had dinner in the city.  It was quite lovely and we got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.

Tia Rock climbing

We headed out to the forest again on Day Three except this time we had my Aunt in tow.  My family isn’t exactly a rock climbing family while we like to go outside and do active things, rock climbing and walking around barefoot isn’t exactly how I grew up.  So it was a bit of culture shock for my Aunt but also for the climbers.  Some climbers are too cool for school types.  They’re all about a certain look with just the right gear and god forbid you say the wrong thing. Well my Aunt tore those walls down immediately.  As soon as we walked up to a climbing spot she announced herself to the world and said hello to everyone.  I knew she would and I kind of reveled in it.   It was culture shock all around and I was just smiling my way through the day.  It was fun to see my worlds collide like that.

On Thursday we had plans to meet up with our good friends, Erin and Veasna, who were traveling from Denver.  They had planned to go to Reims for a day so we decided to meet them there.  Reims is the unofficial capital of the Champagne growing region.  We took a tour of Taittinger followed by lunch and a hunt for more Champagne Protip #3 All Champagne is French.  Don’t say French Champagne it’s redundant.  We trekked through the city and finally found a spot to enjoy a couple of tastings.  My aunt was tired so she volunteered to stay in the car with the kids and we enjoyed a couple of glasses of champagne while they napped in the car. It worked out brilliantly.

On Friday, I wanted to get into Paris before the weekend and my husband, although itching to climb more, agreed to join us which I was ever so grateful for.  We started at the Eiffel Tower and headed all along the Seine via a water taxi, Batobus.  Protip #4 If you want to see the major sites in Paris get this water taxi you’ll be able to hop on and off all day and see most of the major sites in France.  It was a bit chillier that day so we warmed up with French Onion soup and more Champagne (are you getting the theme here?) and met up again with our friends V and Erin.  It was a great day exploring the city and seeing my Aunt’s reaction to the city was priceless.  I know visiting Paris was a lifelong dream of hers and it was cool to help her make it happen.

Unfortunately on Saturday it rained, so climbing was out of the picture but we did make it to Fountainbleau and had a tour of the Chateau de Fountainbleau.  Tours of enormous and extravagant castles are not really my cup of tea but it was beautiful and we went back to our favorite restaurant from our last visit. Protip #5 If you ever find yourself in Fountainbleau, France eat here: Le Grande Café, it may be a bit expensive but it’s worth every Euro. It helped that my toddler slept through the whole meal and we got some much needed peace and quiet.

Finally on Sunday and Monday we were back to climbing and all was better in my husband’s world.  Our final day we spent  in Disneyland Paris and although it started off rainy and cold it cleared up and ended up being a great day.

The flight back was an afternoon flight arriving in Newark in the early evening.  I knew it would be challenging to keep the boys entertained for 7 hours on a plane ride but what I didn’t bargain for was the unbelievably rude women who sat in front of my husband and son.  My son was sitting in his car seat because although he didn’t have to, having a 5 point harness keeping his little body in check instead of a seat belt (that he would quickly learn how to unbuckle) seemed like the better option for us. That was until the woman in front of my son found her seat.  He started kicking and pushing her chair with his feet which we immediately corrected his behavior.  But not before she immediately began to scream “No!” at my son.  Yeah this Latina doesn’t play that.  Leave it to me to correct my child woman or we are going to have problems.  My husband calmly suggested they ask the flight attendants if there were other seats on the plane but there was only one seat available.  Which she responded, “Why don’t you move your kid?”  Yes lady we are going to move a two year old to sit next to a stranger.  She didn’t take the seat, so for the next 7 hours we were on him like white on rice, anytime he kicked we corrected him and explained to him that he was hurting her.  But he’s 2 and also very active being in a plane for 7 hours is not exactly his favorite.  It got pretty ugly between us and our not to friendly neighbors but we did the best we could in a terribly uncomfortable position.  In my son’s defense, her seat was basically on top of him because the seats were so close together (on the way there we had bulkhead) Protip# 6 – Always get bulkhead seating if you’re traveling with children.  To top it off as she was leaving the plane she said, “Control your fucking kids.”  Thanks lady that’s helpful.  It was easily the longest flight of my life and that counts both round trip flights to Thailand.  It made us feel a lot better when other passengers came up to us to let us know we were doing great with the kids and they were as behaved as you could ask of a 10 month old and 2 year old.

Family

Other than the flight home we had a great time.  It wasn’t a typical vacation because
traveling with two kids is HARD but it was awesome to spend some much needed quality time with my boys, my Aunt and friends.

 

 

Up next is Niagara Falls!  Can’t wait!

-G